Yesterday EFL presented comments and recommendations on the Long Term Generation Expansion Plan for 2018 – 2037 (LTGEP) at the Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka’s (PUCSL) public consultation event at the BMICH. EFL Chairman, Dr. Eric Wikramanayake noted that the inclusion of coal power in this plan, amongst other fossil fuel sources, meant that it was not aligned with other government targets of reaching 100% renewable energy by 2030.
Coal power plants cause notable environmental impacts, from air pollution due to sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions which lead to acid rain, to the destruction of marine ecosystems when heated waste water is emitted into the ocean. Aside from respiratory ailments, coal power plants introduce toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and lead into ecosystems and food chains, and are a key driver of climate change. Even when methods to mitigate the environmental damage caused by coal power are included in Environmental Impact Assessments, they are not adopted. The Lakvijaya Coal Power Plant in Norochcholai is evidence of this as the Ceylon Electricity Board has been able to adopt any mitigatory measures for the last 5 years.
Efforts to rely on mini hydropower are also unsustainable, as mini hydropower can only supply low quantities of energy at the cost of disproportionate environmental destruction in sensitive wet zone forests. While wind energy and solar energy are sound renewable alternatives it is important to filter out protected areas and environmentally sensitive areas when selecting sites for these projects. For instance, migratory bird routes and national parks should be excluded when selecting zones for wind farms, and solar energy should not compromise scrubland and forest, instead floating solar farms on reservoirs and solar on rooftops should be considered. Environmental Impact Assessments offer an opportunity to ensure that renewable energy projects are more sustainable and should not be feared, but rather embraced as an opportunity to make development better for all.
EFL commended the fact that the PUCSL was engaging with the public and incorporating environmental concerns into the plan. However, for a sustainable energy plan to exist, compliance to IEE/EIA requirements should be undertaken, and coal power can no longer be considered an option.